When growing fresh herbs, we must to remember that the Scottish climate is not becoming like the Mediterranean. Recent mild winters and warm dry summers have beguiled us into imagining tender herbs would be just fine. Until last winter, of course.

The Scottish weather has always been unpredictable and the odds have been that we’ll make mistakes in the garden and that some punts will fail. Climate change just makes things even worse.

Some stalwarts like mint and chives will survive anything, but woody aromatic herbs including thyme, sage, rosemary, winter savory, hyssop and marjoram have suffered badly this winter.

Herbs simply couldn’t cope with the recent dramatic changes. December’s hard frosts were followed by the usual soggy Christmas, which was then capped by an icy January. Climate change ensures erratic extremes of every kind of weather.

So my herb garden has been a total disaster. Most tender aromatics are shameful: dead exposed branches with the faint possibility that new growth might emerge from the centre.

My rosemary had thrived in terracotta pots for several years but this time, its roots froze and killed the herbs after a protracted wet spell. Herbs in free-draining open ground didn’t suffer like this so fared better.

If growing in pots, we always used to make a point of bringing tender Mediterranean herbs into the greenhouse. We also took cuttings from any of the others in the open ground. But the recent mild winters made this seem unnecessary so we’re paying the price now.

Whether we direct sow annuals outdoors or in seed trays depends on how quickly they grow and on the kind of spring we have. Leafy coriander and dill are quick growers so you’ll still get decent pickings by waiting till the weather is warm enough before direct sowing outdoors.

So this year, mine have been kept firmly in their seed packets till now.

Slower growers like parsley and parcel, a cross between parsley and leaf celery, are best sown in seed trays with some warmth and only planted outside as little plants once the weather is more reliable.

Leaf celery or cutting celery, like parcel, is also hardy and likes damp conditions. In one of the damper bits of the herb garden it needed very little watering last summer and we have been picking its celery flavoured leaves for about nine months.

You can direct sow leaf celery but if at all troubled by molluscs, you should sow seed indoors and plant out when better able to withstand the ravages of these pests.

Really tender herbs like basil or lemon grass will always need to be grown under protection.

Basil needs warmth to germinate and grow but, if grown in a pot, it can be put outdoors during a heatwave.

As well as the large leaved forms of basil, I grow the small leaved Greek type and last summer, they did well in a warm, sunny corner.

Plant of the week

Viola Ivory Crown has highly scented, elegant ivory coloured flowers, slightly tinged with blue on the reverse. All violas prefer well drained but moist soil in partial shade. The perennial violas will form large clumps and seed themselves around if happy. The principal problem is mollusc damage of the new growth in spring. Viola flowers are edible and very useful for decorating cakes and desserts; the small flowered ones are best as a mouthful of pansy can be too much.